Why We Need Predictive Policing in Africa

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Africa is often considered to be unsafe. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, this still holds true. In fact, some of the most unsafe places on earth are situated in the continent. South Africa’s Johannesburg, for instance, is globally known as the crime capital of the world.

Meanwhile, Somalia has also seen great instabilities. Worse, this has spread to its neighbour, Kenya. The recent attack in Kenya saw 147 students at Garissa University lose their lives in a gun spree attack. Since 2011, Kenya has seen massive breach in insecurity, thanks to the terrorism menace. It has slowed down some of the economic sectors including tourism. This indicates that crime may be spreading and snowballing.

But Africans are working to change that. Gareth Newham, Head of the The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Governance, Crime and Justice Division, said that the increase in crime over the past two years shows that a new approach to reducing violence and crime is urgently needed.


“We must address serious challenges facing the police, involve other government departments, and look hard at the factors which cause violence,” Newham rallied in response to the release of the latest crime statistics for South Africa in September 2014.


Utilising technology for predictive policing in Africa, many experts believe, is the long overdue answer to this problem.


Skyline of Johannesburg, South Africa

Skyline of Johannesburg, South Africa

Technology as a Solution to Fight Crime

The use of technology has not been overlooked by East African states. In fact, predictive policing in Africa, such as via surveillance, has been a topic of discussion for quite some time. Technology deployment, although not a silver bullet, can help law enforcers to conduct surveillance over targeted assets.

In May this year, a joint government initiative with leading Kenyan telecommunications company, Safaricom, saw the installation of the National Surveillance, Communication and Control System that will see over 1,800 CCTV cameras in Nairobi and Mombasa. The surveillance system will connect over 195 police stations to high speed internet and help them monitor key installations. Approximately, it will cost US$170 million.


Technology can enable governments to respond quicker and more effectively to incidents,Michael Pittelkow, General Manager Public Services, SAP Africa says.

By taking advantage of the Digital Economy, government and its branches and responders can quickly, efficiently and most importantly, accurately, ascertain the level of response needed to an incident.


Pittelkow says that even data mining could help African countries narrow down on danger spots.

Through the use and analysis of the data generated from the incidents, auditable and accurate information can be generated and used to predict crime hot-spots. This, in turn, allows for governments to ensure adequate resources, staffing and training are available to the correct security and safety divisions, reducing costs to the government, and, ultimately, the taxpayer.


Unfortunately, the reality in most countries is glaring. Police officers do not have the right equipment to curb violence. Even in Kenya, the use of ICT in police stations is unheard of. Indeed, the development of predictive policing in Africa is stalled due to this very problem.

To get advantage of technology, the police force and those in the security sector need to be taught. They need to know how to use technology based solutions in preventing crime and terrorism. Tools like Ushahidi.com, a Kenyan based mapping and data analysis company, can be leveraged by the governing bodies.

The world renowned Ushahidi platform enables users to map out crisis hotspots using text, email and social media channels. Such platforms could help the security forces to collaborate with citizens and find out trouble spots in these countries.


Predictive Policing in Africa - how will it help Mogadishu, Somalia?

Predictive Policing in Africa – how will it help Mogadishu, Somalia?


Predictive Policing in Africa: Five Aspects to Implement

Pittelkow suggests that African governments should look at these areas to ensure that technology is used well to fight crime and unwanted violence:

Investigation Management
Identification of unknown people, objects, locations and events can be displayed and evaluated, and critical information shared in a structured, transparent format. This allows investigators who are not geographically close to the investigation, an opportunity to weigh in and provide insights.

Digital Policing
Considering the need to achieve more for less, police forces must adopt a new way of thinking. Through better management of information, improved investigative outcomes or greater use of innovative technologies, processes, and insights, operational performance can drastically be improved.

Emergency Management
Response time is crucial in any emergency, and can have a major impact on the outcome. By effectively managing and planning emergency units, response time is reduced and more risks are averted.

Real-time Situational Awareness
The identification of risks, threats, and consequences of potential incidents, including criminal acts, security breaches, cyber-attacks, and terrorism in real-time.

Predictive Policing
This enables government to predict crime hot-spots to ensure better resource allocation and prevention of crime and violence.

Predictive Policing in Africa: The Most Effective Solution

Despite all the pros, proposals to implement predictive policing in Africa has also encountered resistance. Often, this resistance is due to a false understanding that predictive policing will replace traditional policing, hence causing many people to lose jobs.


The predictive policing approach does not replace traditional policing, but it enhances existing approaches. It enhances problem-oriented policing, community policing, intelligence-led policing, and hot spot policing”, Michael Pittelkow says.

Real-time analytics and in-memory databases provide opportunities for predictive policing like never before. All this, on reasonable cost.


It may be true that predictive policing in Africa is a much more effective and efficient way to make the continent a safer place. But it is not true that this will rely on many aspects of policing to be automated. People are still needed to contribute data, after all, and police officers are needed to do the actual police work.

In fact, it should be something to celebrate. If anything, predictive policing will reduce some of the occupational hazard associated with traditional policing.

All in all, there should be no reason not to start working together towards implementing predictive policing in Africa. We all want the continent to be a safer place. And predictive policing with the usage of technology is the answer to this long overdue aspiration.